24 October 2005 by Published in: in my life No comments yet

I have a list of things I want to write about, but I’ve been sidetracked. Yesterday morning, via Scalzi’s Whatever, I read of Marissa Lingen‘s secret delight in taking Communion, because it makes her part of a community that if it could, would exclude her.

I love the sentiment as I understand it, which is that we are fundamentally one in Christ. This oneness is not partial or elective, and Marissa expresses this beautifully as “…the Body of Christ has AIDS, has diabetes, has cancer, has everything. The Body of Christ is gay, is bi, is straight, is asexual, is not sure, is sure of something rather more complicated than any of that.” Indeed.

However (of course there’s a however, because otherwise there’d be no entry, right?), I’ve got quibbles with the theological technicalities implied in Marissa’s poetic expression of oneness. I’ve been worrying at them the better part of a day, so it’s now time to write them down and push them out of my mind. Yes, this entry is about to devolve into theological pedantry. As a disclaimer, this is an explication I have no authority to give, unless you believe in the priesthood of all the believers (which, conveniently, I do), because I’m not sanctioned by any church as a spiritual authority, and have not studied theology at an accredited institution. I still believe in the invisible church and in the unified Body of Christ, which is why I think the words I quoted above are so wonderful, I just don’t believe (nor would Dobson) that Communion is what gets you there.

I’m not sure of Marissa’s religious orientation, but I’m guessing by her language that it’s either Roman Catholic or what I think of as near-RC Protestant (Lutheran or Episcopalian). As such, she probably believes either in transubstantiation or consubstantion, which is a far cry from what Evangelicals like Dobson believe. In fact, when Dobson comes to the Lord’s Supper (because he’d never call the act Communion) and takes the bread, he likely does so in memory of Christ’s act. He’d see that as Jesus sharing bread with his disciples, or his elect. It’s not global, and it’s not unifying. He’d also likely consider anyone who partakes thinking there’s a mystic invisible union (Marissa’s stated interpretation) not so much a bad Christian (as she calls herself) as a fake (or even heretical) Christian.

This may seem like counting angels on pinheads, but it’s important and this is why : at its essence, believers like Dobson are exclusionary. The critical part of their Christian belief is how it delineates them from the world, how it separates them and (usually) elevates them. They’re extremely preoccupied with who is and who isn’t really Christian, even though Jesus has said it’s none of their business. (He also says if you must try and discover who is truly Christian, it’s quite easy to tell.) You can consider yourself part of the greater Body of Christ and the catholic (in the sense of universal) Church all you want, but to them you’re just sadly deluded. One of the things I well remember from my Evangelical childhood is the caveats. You are invited to this table, UNLESS. Unless you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior. Unless you failed to make a public profession of faith. Unless you weren’t baptized by immersion. Unless. Unless. Unless. It’s impossible to feel invited, even if you’ve met all the named criteria. One of the the things I best love about the Methodist church I now attend is that all are invited to partake. No caveats. The table is open. They seem to say, “We don’t think Jesus would’ve put in restrictions, and we don’t presume to either.” Amen to that.

Same bread, same cup but the investment of meaning is worlds apart. And the bifurcation of meaning cuts both ways (as proposition 41 will tell you). The table is not shared. And while the disalignment of belief may cause Marissa an inner chuckle, I find it terribly depressing. To her, all sharers of Communion stand in the same circle, part of the same holy Body, though (she imagines) Dobson would find that repugnant. Meanwhile, evangelicals have already drawn their circle to exclude her, as well as the homosexuals, the unwed mothers, those who have cancer, the poor, the hungry, and countless others. Their Body of Christ, their invisible church, is as homogenous as they themselves are.

So the question is, how do we return these Christians to the greater union? How do we help them see that we are all one body? You cannot starve a finger. You cannot cut off a foot and still be whole. You cannot use your elbows to walk, or your knees to digest your food. Every one of us is necessary to achieve the greater good of God’s will. I don’t know the answer, but it seems to me that sharing the table would be a start.


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